USS Mississippi (BB 41)

USS Mississippi (BB 41) was a New Mexico class battleship that was in the Atlantic when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and that took part in most of the major island invasions of the Pacific War, from the Aleutians to Okinawa.

The Mississippi was laid down in 1915, launched in 1917 and completed later in the same year, on 18 December 1917. She remained on the US east coast during the American involvement in the First World War, and spent most of the interwar years operating with the Pacific Fleet.

The New Mexico class ships were modernized in the early 1930s. Their machinery was replaced with new boilers and geared turbines. The cage masts were removed and two tower bridges built - a large one forward and smaller one aft. Anti-torpedo bulges were added and the gun elevation increased to 30 degrees.

During the war the USS Mississippi gained increasingly heavy anti-aircraft defences. She ended the war with 16 (14 in some sources) 5in/25 guns in single mountings, along with 13 quad mounts for 40mm guns and forty single mounted 20mm guns.

In the summer of 1941 all three New Mexico class ships were allocated to the Neutrality Patrol in the Atlantic Ocean, where they formed Task Force 1. On 8 December 1941 the Mississippi and Idaho were both at Reykjavik, and were thus amongst the seven operational battleships on the day after Pearl Harbor. All three New Mexico class ships were ordered back to the Pacific, where they spent the first half of 1942 patrolling off the UK west coast, escorting convoys to Hawaii and training.

Task Force 1 returned to Pearl Harbor on August 1942, and the Mississippi operated around Hawaii and in the southern Pacific. In the summer of 1943 she took part in the invasion of the Aleutian Islands. On 22 July she was part of the force that shelled Kiska Island, while on 27 July she took part in the 'battle of the pips' in which 518 rounds of 14in shells were fired against false radar contacts in near zero visibility. All of this conspicuous activity did have an impact on the Japanese, and on 28 July the 5,100 strong garrison of Kiska was withdrawn.

In November 1943 New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Idaho and Mississippi formed the Northern Attack Group (TG 52.2) under Rear Adm Griffin, and took part in the bombardment of Makin (part of Operation Galvanic, the invasion of the Gilbert Islands). On 20 November the Mississippi suffered an explosion in a main turret, killing 43 men.

In January-February 1944 the same four ships formed the Southern Attack Force (FSG 52.8) during Operation Flintlock, the invasion of the Marshal Islands. Mississippi bombarded Taroa on 20 February 1944 and Wotje on 21 February.

On 20 March she was part of a force (New Mexico, Tennessee, Idaho and Mississippi) that bombarded Kavieng, New Ireland, to divert attention away from an Army invasion of Emirau Island.

The Mississippi spent the summer of 1944 undergoing a refit, before returning to take part in Operation Stalemate II, the invasion of the Palaus, in September 1944. Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Mississippi and West Virginia formed the Fire Support Group for Task Force 31 (Admiral Oldendorf). The Mississippi supported the operation for a week, starting on 12 September.

In October she became part of the Fire Support Group for the Northern Attack Force, TG 78, under Rear Admiral Weyler, and took part in the invasion of Leyte. The Mississippi bombarded the shore of Leyte on 19-20 October. She was present at the battle of Surigao Strait (24 October 1944), the last clash between battleships, but only fired one salve in the American victory. After this battle the Mississippi stayed at Leyte, supporting the invasion, until 16 November.

At the start of 1945 the 'old' battleships were formed into TG 77.2 (Vice Admiral Oldendorf), with six battleships in two units. Mississippi was in Unit 1, with West Virginia and New Mexico, while California, Pennsylvania and Colorado formed Unit 2. The Mississippi opened fire in Lingayan Gulf, on the approaches to Luzon, on 6 January 1945, and came under heavy kamikaze attack. She was hit on 8 January, but was able to remain in place until 10 February.

She then returned to Pearl Harbor for repairs, before returning to the war zone to take part in the attack on Okinawa. Her gunfire destroyed the key Japanese defensive position at Shuri Castle, firing 1,300 14in shells during the attack. She was hit by a second kamikaze on 5 June, but once again was able to remain in place, this time for 11 days.

The Mississippi was part of the fleet that witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. After the war she became a test bed for guns and anti-aircraft systems, with the new hull number AG-128. During 1946-47 all but one of her main turrets was removed and replaced with different 5in/38 turrets. The last 14in turret went in 1952, when the Terrier SAM system was installed. The first of these missiles was fired on 28 January 1953. The Mississippi was finally decommissioned in 1956 and sold for scrap later in the same year.

Displacement (standard)

32,000t

Displacement (loaded)

33,000t

Top Speed

21kts

Range

8,000nm at 10kts

Armour – belt

13.5in-8in

 - deck

3.5in

 - turret faces

18in or 16in

 - turret sides

10-9in

 - turret top

5in

 - turret rear

9in

 - barbettes

13in

 - coning tower

16in

 - coning tower top

8in

Length

624ft

Width

97ft 5in

Armaments

Twelve 14in guns in four triple turrets
Fourteen 4in guns
Four 3in guns
Two 21in submerged beam torpedo tubes

Crew complement

1084

Laid down

5 April 1915

Launched

25 January 1917

Completed

18 December 1917

Fate

Stricken 1956

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 September 2011), USS Mississippi (BB 41) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_USS_Mississippi.html

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